Ethics is an important philosophy created to show what is right and wrong in just about everything. Ethics can apply to everything in the world, from scientific studies, to your local sports team. It creates a guideline of whats morally right, and what shouldn’t be done. In regards to studies, ethics is very important in maintaining a moral ground, so that the studies can be socially accepted. A common example to show studies that are not ethically met, are the Nazi experiments conducted during World War 2 on prisoners of war. These studies disregard all morals and ethics in today’s society, and the society of the time.
A more recent example of questionable ethics while conducting studies would be the ‘Emotional Contagion’ study conducted through Facebook, which knowingly affected the happiness and mood of some Facebook users. The experiment worked by changing the amount of positive and negative status’ made be friends to be shown in their newsfeed, and they found a correlation between viewing a saturation of one mood, to themselves posting status’ of that mood. So people viewing the more negative status’ were found to post more negative things themselves. You can see why people aren’t over the moon about this.
Simply scrolling through your newsfeed can affect your mood
David Hunter writes about this ethics breach, and asks the question, “when is someone involved in human research?“, he says that while technically, no rules were broken because Facebook is a privately owned business, and were legally able to conduct the research, but morally and ethically, was it right? He shares that “6.7% of Americans suffer from depression“, and we can determine that around 46,000 of the database has depression, and these people would have been greatly impacted by this research.
I found this research personally interesting, the idea that you can transfer emotions is powerful, and i’m sure someone, somewhere, is figuring out a bad way to use this new finding. However, this research can have great impact in the health sector, and could even help people suffering from depression, by applying this research in a way to help improve people’s mental health. So while this research was ethically wrong, some positive research and conclusions have amounted from it. One of the big questions that arise from this, is does ethics stand in the way of progress?
To answer this question, I thought it was best to ask around, and see what others think about not just if ethics stand in the way, but what people think about ethics all together, and what kind of studies they would be interested in, if they disregarded ethics completely.
Hunter David, DH 2014, ‘Facebook puts ethics of research by private companies in spotlight’, The Conversation, 4th July, Viewed 2nd April, < http://theconversation.com/facebook-puts-ethics-of-research-by-private-companies-in-spotlight-28798 >
Kramer Adam, 2014, ‘Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks’, PNAS, Vol. 111, No. 24.
Moe Kristine, 1984, ‘Should the Nazi Research Be Cited?’, The Hastings Centre Report, Vol. 14, No. 6, pp 5-7.